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by Darren Held

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Sorry for the absence. I got distracted by some sparkles. Hey, it happens. But I’m back now and chock full of vital information I just know you’re eager to have. Here ya go.

If you’ve taken a Held2gether improv class, you know that every scene starts with space work, eye contact and emotion. Theoretically, of course. But anyway, that’s the goal. You’re doing something with your hands, you’re connecting with your scene partner and you’re in some recognizable emotional state that does not include boredom. All of these things help ground you in the scene and get you on the same page as your partner and give you something to work with besides just the audience’s suggestion.

Sometimes as improvisors we’re tired or lazy or confused and we forget some or all of those scene starters… which actually just means we’ve given ourselves and our partners more work to do, which is not what we want when we’re tired or lazy or confused. So it’s good to remember Darren’s mantra: space work, eye contact emotion, space work, eye contact emotion, space work, eye contact emotion!

Only now I’m going to suggest that there should be two more parts to the mantra. Ack! More to remember! Yes and no. It’s stuff you should be doing anyway as a character, but I had this brilliant idea to break it down for myself because I tend to forget to have characters. It’s extremely frustrating to think, “Okay, I’m gonna be a clumsy oaf who spills all over everyone and bumbles around apologetically,” and then go up on stage and see some sparkles and totally forget the oaf and then I’m just Sonnjea. And no one wants to see her!

So my two new parts are: voice and posture. I really do [almost] always remember the first three. Sometimes my emotion isn’t as big as certain people would like, but it’s not that I’ve forgotten it. So I’m hoping I can just think of the 5 things when I go on stage – it seems doable; after all, it coincides with the number of fingers I have on each hand. So I’ll do my space work, make eye contact, have an emotion, stand a certain way and when I open my mouth, a different voice will come out. Standing and speaking differently can lead to a point of view which is, technically, a character! Yay! And this way, even if I’m all distracted by sparkles and don’t have a character in mind, at least I won’t look and sound like me. You’re welcome.

I’m gonna try it in all my classes this week and I’ll let you know how it goes. And if you try it, let me know. Now I’m off to feed the unicorns. What? I haven’t mentioned them for, like, a week.

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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